A spectacular event, which happened near Mackay, Queensland in the early hours of 24 May 1965, is featured in numerous UFO publications. Three men reported seeing a luminous "machine" near the ground for an extended period of time. Physical traces were later reported. I extracted a summary of the case for my Australian catalogue, but at that time all of the sources led back to Australian newspaper articles; even UFO books cited these same newspaper articles. However, recently I located two contemporary non-newspaper accounts, so I have revisited the case.
During a recent visit to the South Australian State Library I located the case in a copy of UFOPIA's magazine, "Panorama" volume 4 number 3, 1965, pages 17 and 18. The magazine contained a detailed report by one of the witnesses.
"Name: James William Tilse.
Profession, occupation: Senior commercial pilot. Hotel owner.
Time of day: 23/5/65 (Really the 24th) 12:05 (231405Z)
Duration of sighting: 40 min approx.
The circumstances of observation: Mr Burgess, Mr Judin and myself had been playing cards. Mr Burgess went out to the front of the hotel to move my truck. He called Mr Judin who then called me. It was not seen alighting by any of us.
Weather conditions: Sky practically cloudless. Moon approx 30 degree above horizon and perhaps 20 degree to left of object. Temp roughly 80 degrees.
Object watched by: Naked eye.
Witnesses: Mr Judin, C/o Hotel. Mr J Burgess C/- Main Roads Dept. Nebo via Mackay, and myself.
Photos: Photos were taken on high speed Ectachrome. These photos will be forwarded for processing under another person's name.
Situation at the time: Explained above.
The shape: No change in shape whatsoever throughout sighting it being a well defined machine solid and metallic.
Apparent size: Presuming the disc at the top to be 30 feet, thickness of disc would be 1 foot and a height of 15 foot. Mr Judin estimated disc diameter as 20 feet and Mr Burgess 6 feet.
Prominent features: None apart from large banks of floodlights in rows 10.9.8.7.6 (this may not be accurate). No sparks or vapour trails were observed, nor scorching of the ground. Tops of trees appeared to be burned.
Colour: As observed in the light of the Moon. Charcoal.
Sound: Whilst on the ground approaching and receding, none. Mr Burgess and Mr Judin said they heard a buzz (described as similar to a bee) on departure. I was closer to the Hotel generating plant heard nothing on departure.
Direction trajectory speed of travel: On departure rose rapidly to approx 300 feet then accelerated more than extremely rapidly in a N/E to E direction. Would have been flying horizontally.
Motion: A steady flight.
Signs of life: None. But obviously controlled by intelligent beings.
Effects: None. Psychologically. Fear (by observers). Electro-magnetic effects. No radios in operation. Lights OK. Our power generated by diesel. 240v.
Description of sighting: Object was observed as mentioned, and on its approach towards us, I rang the Mackay Police Station. Our phone is on a party line and a cattle property approx 1/4 mile away was contacted whilst police were on the phone. The owner, Mr B Wright had binoculars, but could observe nothing, possibly because a ridge between his homestead and the Hotel. The object remained for about 20 min after the report. During the period on the ground (or hovering) the underside of the trees were illuminated.
A circular impression was found on the ground 2 days later and was measured by the local police. The centre of the circle was untouched. The outside impression was 20 feet from the inside to inside and extended 3 feet 2 inches outwards. It was a perfect circle. Diameter did not vary. It was practically under a telephone line. No evidence of damage can be seen (to the phone lines or poles.)"
The former NICAP groups' newsletter, "The UFO Investigator" June-July 1965 edition, pages 1 and 2 carried an account supplied by Australian researcher Paul Norman who conducted an on-site investigation. Norman interviewed Tilse.
Norman's report to NICAP relates essentially the same story as Tilse's direct account from source one. However, additional/differing information is:
* Burgess was a veteran of the second world war and wanted to get a rifle and shoot at the object
* "As the machine settled on the sparsely timbered ridge, illuminating the trees, the orange glow of the lights dimmed. But it was still too bright to tell whether the glow came from inside, through ports, or from lights encircling the craft."
* The next day Tilse photographed a circular impression on the ground where the UFO landed or hovered. As confirmed by local police and NICAP investigator Norman, it was a perfect circle - a ring three feet two inches thick, its inside diameter 20 feet. In addition, several treetops were scorched where the UFO had closely passed. This was confirmed by constable B Self, Nebo police, and by Tilse and Norman. The evidence and reports are being examined by the Royal Australian Air Force."
This original material, to my mind, strengthens the case for it being a UFO. There is one anomaly though, not revealed in Norman's account, but by Tilse in the Panorama article. Tilse states that the Moon was approximately thirty degrees above the horizon.
However, a check of the Sky View Cafe star chart program on the internet (click here) reveals that at 0005hrs on 24 May 1965, seen from the Epsom Retreat Hotel (click here) (between Eton and Nebo) at latitude 21 deg 28min south; longitude 148 deg 49min east, for Universal Time plus 10 hours (ie Tilse's 231405z), the Moon was 1 degree above the ESE horizon, and not at about 30 degrees as Tilse states.An independent sky chart program, Fourmilab (click here) , was consulted, and it too puts the Moon at 1 degree elevation in the ESE. Why Tilse, an experienced pilot and observer, should place the Moon at 30 degrees elevation, is not apparent to me.
Some skeptic's have suggested that the men in fact saw the Moon, and reported it as a UFO. Their "UFO" was by their accounts on or near the horizon. In addition, "The News" an Adelaide newspaper in its account of the Eton Ridge event, dated 27 May 1965 cites Tilse , upon first seeing the object, as saying "It's the Moon." The details of the object's shape, lights and movements would appear to rule out this explanation, in my opinion.
Concerning the physical traces. Tilse reported these as (1) "Tops of trees appeared to be burned." (2) "a circular impression was found on the ground." Although photographs are said to have been taken, according to Tilse; to my knowledge these have never surfaced for us to view.
Did the RAAF investigate the sighting?
The NICAP account stated that "The evidence and reports are being examined by the Royal Australian Air Force."
A check by me of the relevant RAAF UFO file, NAA file series A703, control symbol 580/1/1 part 4 shows no record of the RAAF ever receiving a completed UFO report form, or an investigating officer's report. However, page 140 of that file is a memo from RAAF HQ Operational Command to Department of Air (Attn: DAFI) dated 22 Jun 1965 reference 5/2/1/Air (57.) It states:
"1. Attached are two newspaper clippings of an alleged sighting of an unidentified flying object received from RAAF Base Amberley.
2. No action has been taken on the matter at this headquarters."
Page 141 of the file is a clipping from the "Ipswich Queensland Times: dated Thursday 27th May 1965 and titled "Three report seeing a 'flying platform' land."
Page 199 of the same file is a clipping from the "Brisbane Courier Mail" dated Thursday 27th May 1965 and titled "A 'thing' leaves its mark."
As both newspaper clippings indicate that Mr Tilse reported the occurrence to the Civil Aviation Department (although Mr Seymour, Regional Director of Civil Aviation is cited in both papers as stating that no report had so far been received) I checked the relevant DCA UFO file in the National Archives. NAA file series B595, control symbol 21/3/387 part 2 titled "Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon" is a DCA file with a date range 1959 to 1969. However, there is no report on this file of the Eton Ridge event.
Most of the original material which I located, in my view, strengthens the case for it being an example of the "core" UFO phenomenon. However, the anomaly of the position of the Moon concerns me. In addition, the lack of a detailed report on either the RAAF or DCA UFO files, (or both), is a puzzle.
I welcome comments by readers, particularly anyone who has located a RAAF or DCA investigation report on this impressive case. I would also like to hear from anyone who has an opinion on the anomaly of the Moon's position.